What if the entire Edward Snowden debacle had been caught on camera? Can you imagine if, in that hotel room in Hong Kong where Snowden had fled for asylum, there had been a filmmaker, heck, a professional cinematographer with the gear to match, filming every personal moment? It would make for quite a movie, right?
Well, there was. Snowden knew that he was making history, and the first person he contacted was Laura Poitras, a political documentarian. She was there, with her camera, in that hotel room, recording it all for posterity. The film is called Citizen Four.
The truth is, it’s an awfully slow movie. Laura is totally committed to cinema verite, so the recipe is Just Add Nothing: no infographics (except from the documents themselves), no interviews, etc. The other independent documentary I’ve seen recently, The Internet’s Own Boy, is a far more engaging film to watch.
Still, Citizen Four is starkly compelling, because it captures a pivotal moment in history, almost in real time. It’s a chance for a deep look at the soul of Edward Snowden, who is nominally the star of the movie, but in a sense deserves credit as a producer. This movie was his idea from the beginning, part of his plan to change the world. It might even be working.